Beckham gets his shot at Man U
AC Milan midfielder David Beckham has been given his dream matchup
against former club Manchester United in the first knockout round
of the Champions League.
The one-time Old Trafford favorite – who returns to Italy
next month for a second loan spell from the Los Angeles Galaxy –
got exactly the tie he hoped for at Friday’s draw.
“I think David wanted this match and destiny looked after
him,” Milan director Umberto Gandini said at UEFA headquarters.
United spokesman Phil Townsend said Beckham would get a
fantastic reception on his first return to the club he helped
become European champion in 1999.
“He was a terrific servant for the club and we all hope he
will be playing,” Townsend said.
Milan will host the English champion on Feb. 16, and United –
as a group winner – has Home advantage in the second leg on March
Also, Italian champion Inter Milan will face Chelsea in a
meeting of coach Jose Mourinho’s current and former clubs.
“Absolutely unbelievable,” Chelsea chief executive Ron
Gourlay said of Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge where he won
two straight Premier League titles in 2005 and ’06. “It’s a huge
game and obviously with Jose it adds even more spice.”
The first leg on Feb. 24 will be played at the San Siro,
where Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti spent the past eight years
coaching AC Milan, and won two European titles.
“It is another derby between Mourinho and Ancelotti, but in
Milan and in London,” Inter chief executive Ernesto Paolillo said.
“(Chelsea) is the team I wanted to avoid but this is the destiny.
Mourinho has a lot of motivation to do well.”
Former Inter forward Luis Figo said his fellow Portuguese had
nothing to prove to Chelsea, which stages the return March 16.
“(Mourinho) brought titles to them and I think people there
love him,” Figo said. “It will be an emotional return for him.”
Defending champion FC Barcelona was drawn to play Stuttgart,
which has struggled in the Bundesliga and fired coach Markus Babbel
this month. The Germans host the first leg on Feb. 23 with a March
17 return at the Nou Camp.
“We have to be very smart and not have too much confidence,”
Barcelona director of football Txiki Begiristain said. “They will
have time to prepare for these games against us and we must be
British bookmaker William Hill made Barcelona a 3-1 favorite
to win the trophy, with Chelsea next at 9-2 and Real Madrid at 5-1.
Nine-time champion Madrid – whose Santiago Bernabeu stadium
hosts the final on May 22 – will take on Lyon in France in the Feb.
16 first leg.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said it would be a privilege
to play against Madrid.
“We won’t be the favorites but we will try to show that the
addition of the greatest stars in the world doesn’t make
everything,” Aulas said of Madrid’s ?250 million ($360 million)
offseason spending that lured Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and former
Lyon forward Karim Benzema.
Arsenal drew a comparatively low-key matchup against FC
Porto, with the first match in Portugal on Feb. 17 and the return
on March 9.
“(Manchester United and Chelsea) will capture the headlines
and that probably suits us,” Arsenal club secretary David Miles
said. “We will go about our work and do a thorough job.”
In other matchups, it was: Olympiakos vs. Bordeaux; four-time
winner Bayern Munich vs. Fiorentina; and CSKA Moscow vs.
Sevilla.nding champion Barcelona travels to play Stuttgart, and
nine-time champion Real Madrid meets Lyon.
In other matchups drawn Friday, it’s: Olympiakos vs.
Bordeaux; Bayern Munich vs. Fiorentina; CSKA Moscow vs. Sevilla;
and FC Porto vs. Arsenal.
The first legs will be played Feb. 16-17 and 23-24, and the
return matches are set for March 9-10 and 16-17.